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Free Lolita Update 11

Lolita Update #11
June 1, 1999

Dear Friends of Lolita,

This is a bit long, but it's been three weeks since the Mother's Day demonstration, and much has happened since then to tell you about. Now is also a good time to bring it all back to Lolita, as you'll see below in a report by Susan Berta, who visited Toki a few days ago.


1) See the Mother's Day demonstration photos. (Webmaster Note: Page no longer online. I will check with Howard to see if these can be replaced.)
Just in! Photos of the Mother's Day demonstration at the Seaquarium. These were taken by Susan Berta. If anyone has any other photos of the demo please send them either attached to emails as .jpg's, or just mail prints (Lolita Campaign, 920 Meridian Ave. #2, Miami Beach, FL 33139). All photos will be returned. (Webmaster Note: Page no longer online. I will check with Howard to see if these can be replaced.)
2) Susan's visit to Lolita on May 23rd - what it's all about
Susan's report on her visit to Lolita (Toki) May 23rd:

I had to go see Toki before I left Miami, & was thankful I wasn't recognized & kicked out, as was someone who'd attended the Mother's Day Demo & later that day was denied access to the Seaquarium.

I arrived before the Whale Stadium was open, so toured some of the rest of the park, which is small & dismal, & in desperate need of much renovation & repair. But with a little progressive thinking & infusion of money, the park has possibilities for an educational/interpretive/manatee rehab facility, instead of being an outdated & low-budget marine mammal circus. Anyone know any millionaires?!

I walked up to the edge of Toki's tank hoping to get to spend some quality time with her before the awful antics of show biz began. She was over by the trainer's island, with her back to me - but as soon as I reached the edge of the pool, she immediately turned around & made a beeline toward me! She came right up to me, & stayed there most of the 20 minutes with her nose right up to my face, only occasionally going to the bottom of the tank or wandering very far. She would move her head to one side, then the other, checking me out, & I'd do the same to her. Sometimes she'd open her mouth a little & show me her teeth, or swim by sideways with her eye up to get a better look. Once she came up close & let out a big wet breath that sprayed me & those next to me with "whale spit", as the little boy next to me called it! But mostly we just spent those moments nose to nose, sharing our thoughts & hopes & fears, & giving each other strength to continue the fight for her freedom.

I know we don't speak the same language, but I know we were communicating & connecting. I tried to let her know how many people are working so very hard to get her out of there. I told her that her family had visited Penn Cove 3 times this spring. I triedto bring her the love & energy of her family in the Northwest, both orca & human, & to let her know she won't have to be lonely forever.

My first impression was that she was much more sociable than when I'd seen her in March, when she'd spent most of the time at the bottom of the tank, lying motionless. It was good to see her active & interacting, with the people before the show (mainly me!) & with the trainers after the show.

After the show they were doing an informal training session, for both Toki & the dolphins, & several new trainers as well. I had to laugh when one trainer was trying to show another trainer how to do a certain swimming stroke, & Toki would watch first one, then the other trainer, as they tried to get it right - then Toki did the stroke, moving her pecs exactly like the trainer was moving her arms!

Next the new trainers practiced getting onto Toki's back in the pool & taking a ride on her. Several of the trainers were in the pool, & most of the dolphins were in the front part of the pool along with Toki. She swam up & one of the trainers got on her back, & suddenly Toki just took off across the pool at high speed & rammed the side of one of the dolphins - which surprised everyone, I think.

Knowing there have been many reports of her spending more time on the bottom of the tank or back in the corner of the medical pool, it makes me wonder if she's starting to show signs of some sort of manic depressive state. We need toget her out of there SOON!!!

Susan Berta
3) Coming demonstrations at the Seaquarium.
Lolita must return home soon, and to keep that message prominent at the Seaquarium and all over Miami we are planning more demonstrations similar to the Mother's Day demo. Dates are the second Sunday of each month for at least the next three months - June 13, July 11, and August 8 (29th anniversary of her capture), from Noon to 1 PM. Anyone living in South Florida is encouraged to join in and to contact others to generate more support for these demonstrations.
4) Corky/Lolita Freedom Bus moves up the west coast.
The FREEDOM BUS, with Corky's portrait on one side and Lolita's on the other, is making its way from event to event heading north to Seattle, displaying Corky's Freedom Banner at every stop. Corky was captured from the Northern Resident community about a year before Lolita's capture and is now held at San Diego Sea World. Both are ideal candidates for release programs. For more on Corky, see the OrcaLab website.
5) G.W. Carver Middle School students helping to distribute petition.
Following a presentation on Lolita and her family at G.W. Carver Middle School on May 10, students there are helping to get signatures on a petition calling on Senator Graham to intercede on Lolita's behalf by filing a complaint with the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, because the tank's dimensions are unlawfully small. As mentioned, a bigger tank would be no solution, but the extremely small size of the present tank violates the Animal Welfare Act, according to the Humane Society of the US. The USDA should observe the law and condemn that tank, regardless of the resulting inconvenience to the Seaquarium.

You can sign the on-line petition to Sen. Graham. (Webmaster Note: Petition is no longer available.)

Please sign on. The petition is automatically forwarded to Sen. Graham.
6) New documents show what the Seaquarium has known all along.
New documents show that the Seaquarium has known all along that orcas use complex languages and live in tightly-bonded societies. Four pages of sound bites written by the Seaquarium for the press and for employees to explain all about killer whales to the public, dating to 1970, have just been discovered. At that time the Seaquarium already had Hugo, a juvenile male who was captured in 1968 and died there in 1980.

In 1970 the Seaquarium told the world: "The Killer Whale is highly social. Family togetherness is a way of life." And, "Their language seems to be quite complex." And they were aware of orcas' long lives: "One in Australian waters whom the nearby villagers called 'Old Tom' is known to have lived at least 80 years."

Seaquarium management had to be aware of the languages used by orcas, because for the first eight months after Lolita was brought to Miami, she lived in the present manatee tank, probably one quarter of the size of the whale stadium tank, where Hugo was kept. Handlers were afraid they would fight if put together. Nobody knew that they were both captured from the Southern Resident community of orcas from Washington waters, and both were members of the same extended family. Aggression was of course not likely, but from September, 1970 to June, 1971 Hugo and Lolita communicated through the air across about 200 yards of the Seaquarium grounds in a highly varied array of calls, at very high volume.

But rather than learn something from this demonstration of the complex language used by Hugo and Lolita, all references to language were quickly dropped from public statements. The Seaquarium also now says orcas only live to 35 years of age, that only "extremists say Lolita's family would recognize her," and "an experiment in which speakers would be hooked up allowing Lolita to hear and interact with whales from her original pod in Puget Sound would not be based on science and would prove nothing." Teaser: You'll hear more about such an experiment in the next Free Lolita Update.

Additionally, the documents reveal that the depth of the medical pool is only 10' deep, which means it violates the Animal Welfare Act and cannot be counted as part of the main pool, and the USDA has repeatedly done. The Seaquarium and the USDA new claim that the medical pool is 12' deep.
7) Hertz gives up on expansion hopes and promises a new tank, yet again (the politics and economics).
On May 26 Arthur Hertz, owner of the Seaquarium, appeared on a TV news program for the first time since 1995 (when he looked down on Susan Wallace of NBC-6 in Miami and said "In real life you can't have happy endings like you can in movies"). He announced that the Seaquarium has given up on attempts to get an exemption from zoning regulations for a planned $70 million expansion (two appelate court decisions and the state legislature have soundly defeated such attempts in the past five years).

Hertz also said he would nevertheless go ahead and build Lolita a new 2.2 million gallon tank. He said construction would begin in six months. He said he planned to get a mate for Lolita so she can have a baby.

I try not to be too cynical, but naturally some skepticism is called for. Consider the economics of constructing a $12-15 million whale stadium, which will not by itself increase revenues to the park, to make life easier for a whale who is not likely to survive much longer in captivity anyway no matter how big the tank, according to statistics, at a time when orca captures are no longer feasible and captive populations are not increasing (much less are there spare adult males around for breeding purposes).

Look at the largest facilities in the world - Sea World's four parks - where eleven orcas have died since 1990. None lasted more than 20 years as captives, and all but one male died at less than half their normal average life expectancy of fifty years for females and thirty years for males. Since 1990, only six orcas have been born at Sea World parks. Sea World has purchased seven orcas from other parks since 1990 just to keep their shows going (See Orcas in Captivity). Throughout the park industry orca deaths are outpacing births, so no marine park would seem inclined to sell an orca to the Seaquarium.

Also consider that in 1996 the Seaquarium borrowed over $5 million from City National Bank of Florida, and that for about twenty years Mr. Hertz has been promising the public that he would build a new whale tank. One has to doubt that there will ever be a new tank at the Seaquarium. Nor will Sea World buy the Seaquarium because it is on county-owned property, which Sea World won't tolerate.

The Seaquarium has managed to convince a great many people that Toki only needs a new tank, so many people, if they believe him, may be temporarily appeased by this promise. But it bears repeating that statistics show that regardless of the size of the tank, orcas tend to die in their youth in any captive facility, so an increase in the size of the tank would not meet Toki's needs or significantly improve her situation even if the promise was genuine.

This announcement by Mr. Hertz seems to indicate that the pressure on the Seaquarium from grassroots efforts such as the Mother's Day demo, the letter-writing campaigns, the recent national publicity, and possibly pressure on the USDA, has brought him out into public view to personally promise a new tank for Toki, even though his failure to build a new tank in six months will further damage his credibility. Looks like the fortress walls are beginning to crack. It's looking like the Seaquarium is ripe for a takeover.

Please contact your friends, relatives, the media, public officials, celebrities, potential contributors, and anyone else you think might help bring Lolita home. And, to find a lovely Free Lolita T-shirt, bumper sticker, audio tape of Lolita's family, or a chocolate bar, (or just to make a credit card contribution) go to [no longer operating]. This is a huge group effort, and we're just starting to get the Lolita campaign rolling on a large scale. My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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